While counterterrorism officials are combing the electronic trails of the Garland, Texas shooters to see if there are any direct ties to ISIS, a very frightening tidbit has emerged – and it’s not about the shooters themselves.
The New York Times says one of the gunman, Elton Simpson, “a convert to Islam with a long history of extremism, regularly traded calls for violence on Twitter with Islamic State fighters and supporters, as well as avowed enemies of Pamela Geller, the organizer of the (Draw Mohammad) cartoon contest.”
“His Twitter contacts included Junaid Hussain, a British fighter with the Islamic State in Syria known as Abu Hussain al-Britani, and Mohamed Abdullahi Hassan, a Somali-American now in Somalia who uses the name Mujahid Miski and frequently promotes the Islamic State. Both men called for violence, and Mr. Hassan had suggested the Texas event as a possible target.”
Simpson was no stranger to authorities. He’d been prosecuted in 2010 for lying to the FBI and had been under scrutiny intermittently for years.
So why were his tweets ignored this time around?
The Times notes ISIS has done such a superb job of online marketing that the number of “online enthusiasts” for ISIS in the U.S. has metastasized seemingly overnight. Counterterrorism investigators have “the difficult task of deciding which are simply fantasizing in public and which might be planning violence.”
“The ISIS guys are talking to these wannabes on Twitter all day long,” a senior law enforcement official said. “It’s like the devil is sitting on their shoulder saying, ‘Come on, they’re insulting the prophet, what are you going to do about it?’ ”
And here’s the scariest part of the whole thing.
“The official, who would speak about the continuing investigation only on condition of anonymity, said that although Mr. Simpson had long been under F.B.I. scrutiny, he had not appeared to be preparing for violence. “There are so many like him that you have to prioritize your investigations,” the official said.”
My friends, we have a big problem. As we reported yesterday, ISIS itself is claiming to have 71 fighters in 15 states.
But that may be the tip of the iceberg. Unlike al-Qaida, which takes a more hands on approach to its operations, ISIS is much more populist. You might call it the “open source” terror group, accepting anyone who takes up its spiritual calling.
The Times says, “with dozens, or perhaps hundreds, of people across the United States expressing online sympathy for the Islamic State, authorities are unable to keep them all under physical surveillance or track them online. Watching a single suspect night and day can require a team of 25 people in shifts around the clock.”
They’ve definitely got their work cut out for them.